With its official unveiling during Thanksgiving week, Soboba Casino Resort began sharing a special holiday treat with visitors. Along its unique Gingerbread Lane, guests are greeted at every turn with oversized cookie cutouts that boast fun facts about the centerpiece of the display: a 22-foot tall gingerbread house.
It took about five weeks from conversation to completion to get the house ready. SCR’s facilities department started building the internal framework in mid-October after the idea was presented by CEO John James. Chief Marketing Officer Marty Moore spearheaded the whimsical design.
Four pastry chefs, including Jean Marie Verhoeven, used 832 pounds of gingerbread dough and 600 pounds of frosting to cover the 400 square foot house. Verhoeven said the team added items as they went along to make it look even sweeter such as candy kisses, chocolate chip cookies and candy canes. Other edible accents include windows made of tinted sugar “glass” and sills made of Belgian chocolate.
He said the gingerbread was baked on sheet pans that measured 18-in. by 24-in. and it took 150 sheet pans of cookie dough to cover the roof and another 100 to cover each side.
“We used the same batter for all of it but added green or red dye for certain parts of the house,” Verhoeven said. “The tricky part was to be sure to cook the colored parts at a lower temperature.”
He said the variance in colors throughout the gingerbread planks, blocks and roof shingles was intentional as they under- and over-baked some sheets and then randomly placed the confection on the house to give it a more realistic look.
“I have done gingerbread before, obviously, but I’ve done nothing so big before,” Verhoeven said. Originally from Belgium, he has been a pastry chef since 1970 and has lived in the United States for about 40 years.
Verhoeven found the project to be extremely interesting and enjoyed working with fellow pastry chefs in between their regular duties for the Soboba Casino Resort’s eateries.
“I appreciated the opportunity to do this and the trust of Robert (Mejia), who gave us the freedom to be creative and did not give us a lot of restrictions,” Verhoeven said. “It turned out amazing.”
Mejia, who is the Director of Food and Beverage, said he was excited to see the house take shape during the construction process.
“It looks fantastic. I’m glad we did it the way that we did it,” Mejia said. “It’s given us motivation to keep going and create a new pastry menu for the main dining room.”
Until that time, guests can purchase prepackaged and individually wrapped goodies to go from the Bake Shop on Gingerbread Lane. The display is open 24/7 with Bake Shop hours of 3 to 10 p.m. Fridays and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 4. Christmas carolers will take the stage Fridays through Sundays from 5 to 8 p.m. There is no seating near the stage but there is plenty of space for guests to stand, while observing social distancing.
Temperature checks are done at all casino entrances and masks are required for everyone entering the casino. Currently no bandanas, neck gaiters or vented masks are permitted – only CDC-approved masks. Social distancing is made easier by using guided pathways throughout Gingerbread Lane that maintains one way in and one way out.
The display is in the casino’s Cabaret Lounge area that was revamped with holiday music and colorful videos and is accessed by walking through a giant lighted Christmas ornament. There are many festive touches throughout the space to encourage selfies as well as a photographer providing a professional photo keepsake in front of the gingerbread house, courtesy of Soboba Casino Resort.
Children will be allowed into the area during the hours of 7 a.m. and 9:59 p.m. when accompanied by an adult who is at least 21 years old. Extensive decorating inside and outside the Soboba Casino Resort is designed to put guests in a merry mood as they continue to enjoy all that the destination resort has to offer throughout the holiday season.
More information about SCR, at 22777 Soboba Road in San Jacinto, is available at SOBOBA.COM or by calling 866-4-SOBOBA.
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians